West Coast Aquatic (WCA) has developed marine spatial plans of Clayoquot and Barkley Sound.
The plans were recently exhibited at public reviews in both Tofino and Ucluelet and are also available online.
The documents form an interactive marine atlas for the West Coast and convey our marine spaces in a holistic way.
“It’s not just information from one sector, it’s all of the sectors,” said Tawney Lem, executive director of the WCA Management Association. “This is about bringing everyone that has an interest in marine spaces together.”
It took WCA four years of data collecting to the develop the maps, which include detailed information from federal, provincial and regional government, coastal First Nations communities, commercial sport and aboriginal fishing, environmental processing, aquaculture labour, marine transportation, and forestry.
“People are really excited about it. They are excited to see local values being documented so that they can be considered in decision making. They’re excited about it as an educational tool,” said Lem.
Drafts of the maps can be viewed and printed from the WCA website, and Lem explained that they are in the process of building an online tool that will enable anyone with a browser to play interactively with the map layers.
“We will embed video that tells the story of a particular site, photos, research documents… It will become an animated thing,” she said adding that they can put an audio file in to help First Nations youth learn how to pronounce place names.
The marine maps indicate where all the fin fish and shell fish farms reside in relation to other values, such as community development and ecologically sensitive areas.
Co-chair of WCA Tony Bennett said the plans are an excellent decision support tool for First Nations to deploy on the aquaculture industry.
“This gives a tool for the Ahousaht First Nation, who has the ability to determine what happens in their traditional territories, to utilize the information and to work with the fish farms to put better placement in or to deny further sites,” he said.
“There are areas for example where it says activities such as fin fish or shell fish is not recommended in the most part it is because there isn’t the bio capability to support it. Either it’s too exposed, it’s too shallow, whatever that is. That is a piece of the plan and it’s not just fin fish and shell fish, it’s for any tenured use,” said Lem.
During the data collecting stage, WCA hired one representative from each of the First Nations communities whose sole purpose was to work with the Elders and those is the communities that dealt with the marine environment.
“Now, we are bringing the maps back into the communities to say, did we get it right? Is there additional knowledge that you would like to see added into the maps,” Lem asked.